Friday, August 21, 2015

AUTUMNAL WEATHER, WORK, WHISTLEPIGS…AND LOSS

Official autumn is still a month away. But yesterday—except for the lack of bright, multi-colored leaves—could have easily been mistaken for a day in late-September or early-October. 

The sky was high and that same intense fall blue. Temperatures early in the morning began in the mid-50s˚F and never made it above the mid-70s˚F at their afternoon highest. And throughout, a gusty breeze regularly rattled the treetops and caused the occasional phalanx of puffy white clouds to go scudding across the sky at a rapid pace.

I spent the day, as I've spent almost every day for a few weeks now, working on my cottage remodeling. Making hay while the sun shines, as my mother used to say. I'm almost finished with the hallway walls and doors, and next will start on the kitchen. 

But time is running out on my being able to set up the sawhorses to cut, fit, and finish things outdoors. Having no garage, my makeshift workshop is at the mercy of the weather. Too soon I'll have to begin cutting firewood…and after that bad weather will likely quell any major carpentry for another year. 

A young groundhog—likely the same one whose photo I posted with its mother some weeks back—has decided to bivouac under the front deck. Every so often he ventures into an overgrown bed of hostas I've planted under the doorway box elder—sometimes startling me with his piercing alarm whistle. An amazingly loud whistle when heard at close range. There's a good reason that in addition to groundhog, another common name for a woodchuck is whistlepig. 

Finally…yesterday evening, on a uncharacteristic whim, I decided to Google the names of several friends and family members I'd lost touch with over the years. I'd barely begun when the obituary for a first cousin popped up. The eldest of my Uncle Paul's two daughters, and a half-dozen years older than me, she'd passed away only a few days ago. Her funeral had been held that morning.

Though she and her family lived several hundred miles from here, I would have attended…but had no idea she was facing serious health issues. It's probably been ten years since the last time I stopped by her home in Michigan for a visit. 

But the fact such a sorry situation existed was as much my fault as anyone's. Once our parents died, we cousins—offspring of the original five brothers and three sisters—sort of went our separate ways. Not out of any animosity, simply more ennui and location. Those who lived close to one another stayed connected; the rest of us, scattered around the country from here to the West Coast, gradually drifted away from the communication fold. I don't have a single phone number, email address, or street address for anyone…and so far as I know, none of them have anything of mine. So they couldn't have easily contacted me if they'd tried—which they very well may have attempted. 

Alas, it was too late for me to even send flowers… 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

STINKING RAIN!

This post has nothing to do with damselflies. Except that yesterday, as I cut and shaped pieces of dimensional lumber for my latest cottage remodeling project, dozens of iridescent damselflies, such as the ebony jewelwing (above) plus various species of dancers, bluets, forktails, and slenderwings—in a host of breathtaking colors—zipped around, sometimes pausing for a quick rest on the sawhorses, energized by the bright sunlight's summery heat.

Today it feels like another season. Even now, at 2:00 p.m., the day's high is still a ridiculously chilly 62˚F! That's at least 25 degrees below the usual expectations for this time of year in southwest Ohio. Flat too cold for August hereabouts! Nor is there much hope temperatures will rise more than a degree or two between now and nightfall—and tonight it's predicted the low will dip into the mid-50s˚F.  

If this wasn't bad enough, it's been raining since before dawn. A steady drizzle that occasionally increases to a near downpour. And of course the sky is low—a dim, dark charcoal gray the shade of dirty wool.  

As you might surmise, there are no vividly hued damselflies zipping around! 

Moreover, I can't work on my latest carpentry project because, lacking a garage or other dry interior space, I have to wait for better weather before I can set up shop in the yard. So in spite of being all energized for a day's work, I'm instead forced to quashed my plans. A rained-out, froze-out, time-out.          

Last night, just before we turned off the TV and headed to bed, Myladylove sat bolt upright, sniffed, then wrinkled her nose. 

"Ugghh!" she said, giving me an annoyed glance. "What's that awful smell?"

Myladylove has the olfactory sensitivity of a bloodhound. I'm not exaggerating when I say she's phenomenal at detecting and discerning scents. I've never met another human being with even half her nose prowess. 

While my own scenting capabilities didn't approached her level, I used to be above average at sniffing things out. But a couple of months ago, when I first got sick and went on my initial round of medications, my trusty sense of smell mostly vanished. It has yet to return. Currently, I can crush a handful of peppermint leaves, hold them against my nose, and barely catch a whiff of their strong scent. The same goes for mentholated rub, aftershave, woodsmoke…and, apparently, skunk. 

"Dunno," I said, with an ineffective shrug. "I can't smell anything."     
She shot me another irritated look, sniffed again, then answered her own question: "Skunk!"

At which point she sprang up and hastily closed the screen where the offending musky smell was flooding through—drawn in by the big window-mounted fan on the opposite side of the room that busily pushes air out. Her actions were accompanied by overly-dramatic sounds of gagging, retching, and imminent asphyxiation.

I had more sense than to rise to that particular ploy. No use getting blamed for the behavior of a stinky skunk. It's against my nature, but I've learned when to remain silent. A savvy survival instinct. 

But I should have paid better attention to the omen-bearing skunk, even if I couldn't smell it. I do believe the critter was delivering a malodorous prophecy…for today has been a real stinker!        

Sunday, August 2, 2015

MY GREAT HIATUS


I feel a bit like Sherlock Holmes who eventually—and to the surprise of many—returned to 221B Baker Street after falling off Reichenbach Falls. 

Not that I see myself as any sort of latter-day incarnation of the world's most famous consulting detective. Rather, it's merely that rumors and mutterings of his apparent death, while locked in mortal combat with the evil Professor Moriarty, proved blessedly premature. 

When he did eventually return to his work and lodgings, that period of prolonged absence came to be known ever after as the Great Hiatus.

I never fell over a falls, or down a rabbit hole. Nether have I heard actual rumors and mutterings of my own demise, though several concerned friends—knowing I'd been desperately sick and didn't seem to be getting well—were worried enough to email and check about the seriousness of things given my continued silence. 

The truth is, I was worried too. The illness that began way back in May carried all through June and most of July. I saw doctors, took regimes of various antibiotics and other medications, and felt too bad to do much of anything other than rest. But none of it helped…or maybe it did, but only in that it kept things from turning even worse.

However, the good—no, great!—news is that a bit more than a week ago I started to improve. And by the middle of this past week I was not only back to normal, but better than normal—the best I've felt in several years. So good that I've been able to finally start work on the cottage which I'd planned to begin this spring.

I didn't want to write this report until I had something positive to say. And I wanted to be sure, because I know everyone is tired of hearing and reading my posts whining about being sick, feeling bad, blah, blah, blah. 

Believe me, I was tired of writing them. 

So have returned from my own Great Hiatus, I'll now get back to posting here—probably not daily, given all the projects I need to finish on the cottage—but regularly. And making photos, even if it's just a half-hour stop somewhere on the way to or from the building supplies or grocery store. 

To those who kept me in your thoughts and prayers, thank you—sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. It meant more than you can imagine. And I have no doubt it made all the difference. 

As the Godfather of Soul so inimitably said: I FEEL GOOD! 

     

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

LILIES BETWEEN THE RAINS

I'm thinking it may rain forever. At least it seems that way sometimes. Our recent spring was one of the rainiest ever. Summer has so far been unseasonably rainy. It rained yesterday, is supposed to rain today—in fact, the sky is dark and I hear the not very distant rumbles of thunder—and local weather oracles predict rain every day but one through next week. 

I probably should have planted water lilies instead of gladiolus.

Ah, well, the truth is most of the flowers which have managed to not drown are doing rather nicely, what with the cool temps and ample moisture—though they've certainly had to make efficient use of whatever irregular flashes of sunlight came their way.

Naturally, any brief intermission from our extended monsoon season has invariably occurred on days when I had to spend most hours sitting at my desk, pecking away at the keyboard, in an attempt to remain gainfully employed. 

Still, from time to time the pull of that rare sunlit world beyond the windowpane proves irresistible. So I leap from my chair, grab a camera from a nearby counter, and bolt through the door to scurry about the yard for the next twenty minutes, snapping images like a madman. Therapy to calm my soul. 

The three shots of various summer lilies were made day-before-yesterday during one such fleeting, sanity-keeping breakout.       

Friday, July 3, 2015

SWEET REVENGE

My daughter, son-in-law, and most-delightful granddaughter, Anya, along with their longtime best friends and their twin daughters, all headed off this morning to spend the holiday and following week being Buckeye beach bums at Hilton Head, South Carolina.

A pretty cushy getaway place if you don't mind sand, surf, sun, seafood—and judging by recent news reports, possibly the occasional sneaky shark. I hope they have a fun vacation, and pray nobody gets fish-bit.  

Meanwhile, Myladylove and I will be holding down the fort here. Our plans include much relaxing, grilling and consuming various good eats, working a bit in the yard, and in my case, continuing with my healing—which may to the untrained eye superficially resemble seriously lazing about, but is actually a medically-proven therapy technique. 

In addition, while my immediate kin are galavanting off to enjoy themselves on the Atlantic coast, Myladylove and I volunteered to dog-sit Gwynn (short for Guinevere), their perky cream-champagne maltipoo. We picked her up last night and to our great relief, she proved everyone's fears groundless by making the 40-minute journey from there to here without getting car sick—which may be a personal first.

But I don't want to give the wrong impression, she's actually a nice little foo-foo pooch—eager to please, well behaved, and always an all-around good houseguest. And, of course, she's been here before—though never as the only dog in the house. 

But I'll still miss having my world-class grandbaby to tease, smooch and dandle. 

Therefore, by way of compensation, while the deserters, er, vacationers are gone, I intend to do my very best to turn the dainty Miss Gwynny-poo into a full-fledged redneck river rat. And I must say, so far the plan is working. She's not only proving to be easily corrupted, she's embraced this laid-back lifestyle makeover as an enthusiastic accomplice!

What can I say…revenge is sweet!    
    

Saturday, June 27, 2015

BACK, I THINK

Another cloudy, rainy, cool day here along the river. The same weather we had most of last week, and the same weather that's predicted for most of the week upcoming. Overall, spring was cooler, wetter, and cloudier than normal—and if beginnings are any indication, it looks like summer intends to follow suite.

I'm not completely over my recent illness. Still coughing occasionally, and disconcertingly weak—a half-day of shopping or rambling about pretty much does me in. But I'm improving, and feel the best I have since before I got sick. 

Between a slow recovery and uncooperative weather, I've managed very few photos lately. Plus life has been—to put it mildly—pretty boring. All of which has lead to a singular lack of personal motivation…the only excuse I have for not blogging   

However, I must have passed some inner milestone, because I'm now feeling guilty about continued self-pity and whining, while emulating the behavior of a potted plant. I guess it's time for me to reemerge from my den, rejoin the living, go on the occasional brief photo foray, and post my thoughts and deeds to this blog. 

I think I'm back.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

BACKLIT LILY


It's been hot here along the river, with recent days getting into the low-90˚s F. Way too hot for your boreal-natured correspondent. Usually. But in the aftermath of whatever nasty respiratory ailment I've been struggling to overcome, I've been suffering with constant chills, regardless of what the thermometer says—often needing to wear a heavy sweater throughout the day just to keep from shivering.

Yesterday was the first day in a long while in which my temperature seemed to stabilize and remain normal without medication. With the lack of fever it also became the first day I truly noticed the heat. Which isn't a complaint. While I'm not completely over things yet, yesterday felt like I'd honestly—finally!—turned a positive corner. I feel considerably better than I have in several weeks. 

For that I'm deeply thankful.

The photo of the common orange daylily was taken the same day as the groundhog shot…though late in the evening, just before the sun dipped below the western treeline. Knowing I was too sick to cook, and hoping a bit of fast food might taste good to me, Myladylove stopped on her was home and picked up a couple boxes of chicken strips. 

I decided to try and sit out on the deck long enough to eat. A moment after managing to make it to one of the rockers, I looked around a saw the lily, in shadow, with the shadowed river beyond, glowing like a stained-glass panel from the low sun's backlight. I knew the lighting—and the image—would disappear in a moment. And I didn't want to miss the photo. So I heaved myself back up, staggered the few feet to the door and to my camera just inside, lurched back to the rocker, framed, focused, and clicked…and before I could click again, the sun winked out behind a tree, the light turned flat and dim—and just that quickly, the image moment was over.

I don't know if all the above plays into things—a sort of situational favoritism—or if it's just an image I would have liked, artistically, anyway. But this simple composition—a single orange lily, gleaming with luminescent fire, surrounded by shadows—is one of the most personally pleasing shots I've made in awhile. 

I hope you like it, too. 
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